If James Graham has played his last NRL game, St George Illawarra provided a fitting farewell.
Much like gritty forward Graham, the Dragons got down and dirty to grind out a 20-8 win over an injury-hit Gold Coast Titans and clinch their second straight victory at a wet Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
Graham’s Dragons days appear numbered after the England forward approached the club this week about returning to the UK Super League this year to join St Helens.
Graham is hoping to fill the vacancy created by St Helens prop Luke Thompson who has been released to play for NRL rivals Canterbury.
At first not much went to script for what looks set to be Graham’s swansong, drawing the curtain on his 186-game NRL career.
Graham was demoted from lock to the bench by coach Paul McGregor before the kick-off.
But Graham finally emerged in the 20th minute to help the Dragons grind out their fifth straight win over the Titans, further easing pressure on McGregor.
The Titans started well to give hope to the 1,930 fans, made up mostly of Gold Coast members, marking the first time supporters were allowed in to NRL games in Queensland since March 13.
The Queensland government announced this week that up to 2000 fans could attend matches from Saturday as coronavirus restrictions eased.
But by the end they would have been forgiven for wondering why they braved the largely miserable conditions with the Titans battling to fire a shot while reduced to just one man on the bench.
Gold Coast still managed a consolation try to Tanah Boyd in the 76th minute after winger Phillip Sami (hamstring), centre Young Tonumaipea (knee) and Titans debutant, ex-Wests Tigers No.1 Cory Thompson (head knock), were forced off.
McGregor’s only concern was playmaker Adam Clune being forced off with a head knock in the final 10 minutes.
In a scrappy encounter the Dragons grabbed a winning buffer when winger Jordan Pereira ran off Clune to score in the 46th minute.
The Dragons grabbed a 14-2 halftime lead after overcoming some early resistance from the hosts in slippery conditions.
The Titans drew first blood with an Ash Taylor penalty in the opening minutes but from then on it was all Dragons.
Impressive fullback Matt Dufty put Zac Lomax through a hole and the centre used wonderful footwork to elude Thompson to score in the 17th minute.
Winger Mikaele Ravalawa then pounced on five-eighth Cory Norman’s cut out pass to crash over in the 26th minute.
Fullback Thompson – who arrived from the Wests Tigers this week – came off for treatment after a high shot from Pereira midway in the first half.